We, the undersigned law students and new lawyers, pledge to boycott Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in response to the firm’s work shielding corporate polluters from climate accountability, its racist legal attacks against Indigenous communities, and the persecution of human rights lawyer Steven Donziger, whose imprisonment is a direct result of Gibson Dunn’s unethical and bullying litigation strategies.
Gibson Dunn has consistently advanced the interests of corporations that cause immense harm to the climate and frontline communities, particularly Indigenous communities. The 2021 Law Firm Climate Change Scorecard by Law Students for Climate Accountability (LSCA) found that Gibson Dunn conducted the second most anti-climate litigation of any law firm. Gibson Dunn has represented Dakota Access despite significant environmental impacts and its incursion on sacred Sioux land, and it currently represents a plaintiff in Brackeen v. Haaland, a lawsuit seeking to strike down the Indian Child Welfare Act, a vital law protecting against the removal of American Indian children from their communities.
Likewise, Gibson Dunn has aggressively litigated to ensure that Chevron evades liability for dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste that did irreversible environmental damage and caused widespread cancer and birth defects among Indigenous and campesino communities in Ecuador. Tens of thousands of Ecuadorians brought suit and were awarded a $9.5 billion dollar judgment to fund cleanup of the pollution; rather than pay it, Chevron has used Gibson Dunn to to demonize Steven Donzinger, the attorney representing these plaintiffs. Gibson Dunn helped mastermind a wholly unprecedented campaign of coercion, bribery, and persecution against Mr. Donziger. For the “crime” of refusing to endanger vulnerable environmental activists in Ecuador by handing over to Chevron years of sensitive communications with his clients, Mr. Donziger was kept under house arrest for two years — an act the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights decried as illegal under international law — and was recently sentenced to six months imprisonment. He surrendered himself on October 27.
These scorched-earth tactics are not new to Gibson Dunn, which has been fined by the Montana Supreme Court for “legal thuggery” and “blatantly and maliciously trying to intimidate” its opponents. A New York federal judge sanctioned the firm for “unacceptable shenanigans,” and a California federal judge found Gibson Dunn’s misconduct to be “a product of a culture which permeates” the firm. But Gibson Dunn’s extraordinary campaign to prevent Indigenous Ecuadorians from receiving relief by attacking Mr. Donziger represents a dangerous escalation of these tactics, and a tremendous threat to all future environmental plaintiffs and their advocates.
Last spring, in a letter signed by 87 law student organizations from dozens of law schools across the country, LSCA called on Gibson Dunn to commit to an ethical standard for its fossil fuel work. These student organizations have yet to receive a response. We reiterate their call.
As the newest generation to enter the legal profession, we refuse to be a part of Gibson Dunn’s work undermining access to justice, particularly for Indigenous communities. And we refuse to contribute to a firm that is doing so much to exacerbate a climate crisis that threatens every one of us with an unlivable future.
The undersigned law students and new lawyers:
We’re a Small Arkansas Newspaper. Why Is the State Making Us Sign a Pledge About Israel?
At The Arkansas Times, a publication I founded 47 years ago, our pages focus on small-scale local issues, like protecting Medicaid expansion from the predations of our state legislature and other elements of Arkansas politics, history and culture. So I was surprised when in 2018 I received an ultimatum from the University of Arkansas’s Pulaski Technical College, a longtime advertiser: To continue receiving its ad dollars, we would have to certify in writing that our company was not engaged in a boycott of Israel. It was puzzling. Our paper focuses on the virtues of Sims Bar-B-Que down on Broadway — why would we be required to sign a pledge regarding a country in the Middle East?
I understood the context of that email. In 2017, Arkansas pledged to enforce support for Israel by mandating that public agencies not do business with contractors unless those contractors affirm that they do not boycott Israel. The idea behind the bill goes back 16 years. In 2005, Palestinian civil society launched a campaign calling for “boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.” Around the world, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or B.D.S., as it became known, gained momentum. In response, Israel and lobbyists have used multiple strategies to quash the movement. In the United States, one such strategy took the form of anti-B.D.S. bills. Currently, more than 30 states have provisions on the books similar to Arkansas’s.
It soon became clear that The Arkansas Times had to answer our advertiser. Though boycotting Israel could not have been further from our minds and though state funding is a significant source of our income, our answer was no. We don’t take political positions in return for advertising. If we signed the pledge, I believe, we’d be signing away our right to freedom of conscience. And as journalists, we would be unworthy of the protections granted us under the First Amendment.
And so, instead of signing, we sued to overturn the law, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, on the grounds that it violates the First and 14th Amendments. We are still fighting it.
The Arkansas legislature is dominated by conservative evangelicals, such as the former Senate majority leader, Bart Hester. He is featured in the new documentary film “Boycott,” directed by Julia Bacha and produced by the group Just Vision. “Boycott” follows three plaintiffs, including me, challenging their states’ anti-boycott laws. In the film, Senator Hester explains that his religious belief motivates everything he does as a government official, including writing Arkansas’s anti-boycott law. He also explains his eschatological beliefs: “There is going to be certain things that happen in Israel before Christ returns. There will be famines and disease and war. And the Jewish people are going to go back to their homeland. At that point Jesus Christ will come back to the earth.” He added, “Anybody, Jewish or not Jewish, that doesn’t accept Christ, in my opinion, will end up going to hell.” Senator Hester and his coreligionists may see the anti-boycott law as a way to support Israel, whose return to its biblical borders, according to their reading of scripture, is one of the precursors to the Second Coming and Armageddon.
In other words, Senator Hester and other supporters of the law entwine religion and public life in a manner that we believe intrudes on our First Amendment rights.
These types of laws are not restricted to states in which fundamentalist Christians hold sway. In 2016, California passed a law requiring large contractors working with a state agency to certify that they will not discriminate against Israel, and Andrew Cuomo, as governor of New York, signed an executive order that compels state entities to divest money and assets from a list of organizations regarded by the state as participating in the boycott. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York proposed national anti-boycott legislation.
Let’s be clear, states are trading their citizens’ First Amendment rights for what looks like unconditional support for a foreign government.
When our case reached the Federal District Court in 2019, the state argued that boycotting was not political speech but rather an economic exercise and therefore subject to state regulation. We found that argument absurd. After all, our nation’s founding mythology includes the boycott of tea. Since then, boycotts have repeatedly been used as a tool of political speech and protest, from the Montgomery bus boycott to end segregation to the Delano grape strike protesting exploitation of farmworkers. University students throughout the country engaged in anti-apartheid boycotts of and divestment from South Africa. In 1982, the right to boycott as a method of collective political speech was upheld by a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in N.A.A.C.P. v. Claiborne Hardware Company.
And yet U.S. District Judge Brian Miller ruled against us. We appealed to the Eighth Circuit — and won — before a three-judge panel in February. But on June 10, a rehearing by the full Eighth Circuit was ordered. That hearing occurred on Sept. 21, and a decision is expected very soon. Frankly, we’re concerned it won’t go our way.
If we lose in the Eighth Circuit, our last hope is the Supreme Court. Ours isn’t the only case out there. In 2018 and 2019, federal courts in Texas, Arizona and Kansas ruled against their states’ anti-B.D.S. laws. If the Supreme Court rules against us, the other favorable rulings could be in jeopardy. Also concerning is that these states have since amended their anti-boycott laws, narrowing their scope so they apply only to companies with a large number of contractors and to public contracts that are more than $100,000 but without addressing what we see as the laws’ fundamental unconstitutionality.
Although the Arkansas press has covered the case, there has been little editorial support for or comment on our fight beyond that. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette signed the pledge — as did Arkansas Business, our business journal. And yet freedom of expression is a sacred American value and foundational to our democratic ideals.
If these anti-boycott laws are allowed to stand, get ready for a slew of copycat legislation. Texas passed two laws that went into effect on Sept. 1 — one prohibiting state agencies from conducting business with contractors that boycott fossil fuels and another preventing agencies from contracting with businesses that boycott firearm companies or trade associations.
What the outcome of The Arkansas Times’s lawsuit will be is unclear. One thing, however, remains crystal clear: These anti-boycott laws, allowing government to use money to punish dissent, will encourage the creation of ever more repressive laws that risk strangling free speech for years to come.
Alan Leveritt is the founder and publisher of The Arkansas Times. His lawsuit against Arkansas’s anti-boycott law is the subject of Just Vision’s upcoming documentary “Boycott.”
BlockFi’s Rehypothecation is Risky and should be Boycotted!
Hello. In this video I’m discussing some things I don’t think are good with BlockFi and why I believe they’re too risky and we must boycott them.
Wayfair’s Wayward Walkout
What’s the point of denying furniture for detained migrants?
One depressing sign of our times is the politicization of every corner of American life, and the latest outrage overkill involves, well, furniture sales. A classic example of progressives losing the plot is this week’s walkout at Wayfair.
The trouble started when some 500 employees at the popular online furniture retailer complained in a letter that Wayfair had been selling beds and mattresses to a group that runs detention centers at the border. “We believe that the current actions of the United States and their contractors at the Southern border do not represent an ethical business partnership Wayfair should choose to be part of,” the letter said. Employees staged a walkout on Wednesday and protested in Boston.The Democratic Debate0:00 / 24:30SUBSCRIBE
Here’s a question: How exactly would the plight of immigrants be improved by denying them furniture? You would think employees so concerned about the living conditions at the border would be eager to furnish decent products for those affected. Wayfair’s social-justice warriors fail to see the irony, and you can expect more such moral confusion from progressive millennials across corporate America.